The Go-Betweens : The Role of 'Technical Assistance' in International Development Cooperation

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Title: The Go-Betweens : The Role of 'Technical Assistance' in International Development Cooperation
Author: White, Pamela
Contributor organization: University of Helsinki, Faculty of Social Sciences, Development Studies
Doctoral Programme in Political, Societal and Regional Changes
Helsingin yliopisto, valtiotieteellinen tiedekunta
Poliittisten, yhteiskunnallisten ja alueellisten muutosten tohtoriohjelma
Helsingfors universitet, statsvetenskapliga fakulteten
Doktorandprogrammet i politisk, samhällelig och regional förändring
Publisher: Helsingin yliopisto
Date: 2020-10-02
Language: eng
Belongs to series: Faculty of Social Sciences - URN:ISSN:2343-2748
Thesis level: Doctoral dissertation (article-based)
Abstract: Billions of Euros are spent each year on the highly contested subject of development cooperation. Is it the right thing to do, and is it doing any good? It is assumed that carefully crafted policies from donors will be implemented worldwide, regardless of the cultural setting. There is an assumed flow from rational aid policies, to financing aid practice, to aid consequences and impacts, yet none of these steps are certain and uncontested. Little attention is given to the go-betweens, the people and organisations responsible for the practice of development policy. The key question asked within this dissertation is what are the roles, motivations and contribution of individuals and organisations in development cooperation? The overall research questions are grouped into three parts: a) What are the roles and motivations of individuals and the consulting companies working in development cooperation?; b) What contribution can (or should?) these individuals and companies make to translating norms, regulatory frameworks and values into practice in complex operating environments?; and c) What is the role of technical assistance in achieving sustainable and equitable water governance in Nepal? My contention is that the development complex (and development interventions specifically) depends on human agency and capabilities in the form of individuals and organisations – rather than only the transfer of money or technology. This includes the attitudes and motivations of the beneficiaries themselves, the local governments, donor government staff, NGOs and researchers, and the persons involved in the provision of technical assistance. All these groups have the chance to contribute to, or to impede development. These articles drill down particularly to the role of the latter group. These individuals providing technical assistance need to operate within the norms and regulations of the donor and recipient governments, and the local cultures and realities of the countries, local governments and communities they work with. The individuals both influence the group they work with, and in turn are influenced by the group habitus. In this thesis I contend that people at all levels have an important role in the implementation of development cooperation. Staff working in donor and recipient governments, and community level actors are all critical for facilitating or blocking development activities; just as are the technical advisors themselves. All bring in their own motivations, values and incentives. However, I cannot rule out the role of modalities, institutions or cultures as well, as clearly in the case studies the local cultures and institutions (both project imposed and community-based) are constantly interacting with each other and with the individuals involved. In addition, evidence of a habitus among development workers suggests that there is also a significant role for the development ‘culture’. Hence, I operate between methodological individualism and collectivism, with a constructivist approach. In particular, my study is focused on Finnish development cooperation, including Finns working in a variety of roles and modalities, and Nepalese co-workers in my two case study projects. The major approaches and themes regarding technical assistance and development cooperation that emerged in my research included: motivations; habitus; brokerage, translation and bricolage; gender equality and human rights; and principal-agent theory. The research approaches different concepts of technical assistance from many directions. It covers the different individual motivations for working in development, from students of development studies, through people working in many types of role – what I have referred to as the spectrum of technical cooperation. It also analyses the role of consulting companies working in development – a topic rarely studied. Using two Finnish funded rural water management projects in Nepal as case studies, I considered the role of technical assistance in transferring the values and policies of donors and recipient governments into practice. I examine the way that the international and Nepali experts translate the policies into practice, and feed practices and learning back up to the policy setters and donors. This is supported with discussion on operationalising the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and human rights in Nepal. And finally, I consider the role of the TA in supporting development of the nascent local governments in Nepal, building their capacities to secure safe water for all. The methodology includes questionnaires, interviews, and two case studies. Development cooperation does not function simply as a financial transfer mechanism. Yet the role of individuals to facilitate implementation is often ignored. Acknowledging the role of individuals in coordination with other stakeholders, in implementing policies and strategies, and adapting them to local realities, would be a critical step in development cooperation in general, and specifically, in water governance and human rights. This is important both for decision-makers and for researchers. Keywords: Technical assistance; development cooperation; water governance; Nepal; gender equality and social inclusion; human rights-based approach; motivations; translation; brokeringFinnish language abstract sent by email
Subject: development Studies
Rights: Julkaisu on tekijänoikeussäännösten alainen. Teosta voi lukea ja tulostaa henkilökohtaista käyttöä varten. Käyttö kaupallisiin tarkoituksiin on kielletty.

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